Isolations from the redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, confirm that the laurel wilt pathogen, Raffaelea lauricola, originated in Asia
The laurel wilt pathogen Raffaelea lauricola was hypothesized to have been introduced to the southeastern USA in the mycangium of the redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, which is native to Asia. To test this hypothesis adult X. glabratus were trapped in Taiwan and on Kyushu Island, Japan, in 2009, and dead beetles were sent to USA for isolation of fungal symbionts. Individual X. glabratus were macerated in glass tissue grinders, and the slurry was serially diluted and plated onto malt agar medium amended with cycloheximide, a medium semiselective for Ophiostoma species and their anamorphs, including members of Raffaelea. R. lauricola was isolated from 56 of 85 beetles in Taiwan and 10 of 16 beetles in Japan at up to an estimated 10 000 CFUs per beetle. The next most commonly isolated species was R. ellipticospora, which also has been recovered from X. glabratus trapped in the USA, as were two other fungi isolated from beetles in Taiwan, R. fusca and R. subfusca. Three unidentified Raffaelea spp. and three unidentified Ophiostoma spp. were isolated rarely from X. glabratus collected in Taiwan. Isolations from beetles similarly trapped in Georgia, USA, yielded R. lauricola and R. ellipticospora in numbers similar to those from beetles trapped in Taiwan and Japan. The results support the hypothesis that R. lauricola was introduced into the USA in mycangia of X. glabratus shipped to USA in solid wood packing material from Asia. However differences in the mycangial mycoflora of X. glabratus in Taiwan, Japan and USA suggest that the X. glabratus population established in USA originated in another part of Asia.